STS Colloquium: Hashtag Activism: Networked Counterpublics in the Digital Age

STS Colloquium: Hashtag Activism: Networked Counterpublics in the Digital Age

Date posted: 2016-09-27 14:22:23

Brooke Foucault Welles is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and on the faculty of Network Science at Northeastern University in Boston. Her talk is titled “Hashtag Activism: Networked Counterpublics in the Digital Age” and it inaugurates the STS Colloquium series for the 2016-2017 year. The colloquium is co-sponsored by The Thomas Phelan Endowed Chair for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and the Rensselaer IDEA.

Professor Welles will speak about how the proliferation of social media has given rise to widespread study and speculation about the impact of digital technologies on politics, activism, and social change. Key among these debates is the role social media play in shaping the contemporary public sphere, and by proxy, our democracy. Maligned by some as “slacktivism,” she argues that social computing platforms such as Twitter create unique opportunities for traditionally excluded voices to challenge the terms of public debate. Counterpublics, or the alternative spheres of debate created by marginalized voices, have long played the important role of highlighting and legitimizing the experiences of those at the margins as they push for integration and change in the mainstream public sphere. Using the evidence from the Twitter hashtags #myNYPD and #Ferguson, she will discuss how networked counterpublics and hashtag activism are increasingly complementing offline counterpublic spheres to change the terms of mainstream public debates about state violence and racial justice in America.

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